New School, Old School


Few people know that, in the 1990s, Tibisay Lucena, the mastermind of Venezuela’s electoral obstruction, was a lowly New York City graduate student.

Little is known about her stint at the New School for Social Research’s Sociology Department, but one thing is clear: grad school in the Big Apple did not prevent her from becoming the petulant, quintessentially Latin American bureaucrat she ultimately became.

A lot of people in Venezuela tonight are angry at Tibisay, something they have grown accostumed to feeling. Tibisay comes and goes, like the tides of political crises. She will disappear for months at a time, but just when things start to get heated, she makes her appearance in our public sphere, brandishing an aura of legalese and a smart new ‘do, protecting herself from the accountability that is the last wish of our dying democracy with laws, procedures, and goons.

But as I watch Tibisay announce that 600,000 signatures – the will of 600,000 Venezuelans – are simply being thrown away on technicalities (at best) and whims (often), all I can feel is sorry for her.

For in the act of discarding the signatures of people who notoriously signed to revoke Maduro’s mandate – people like Henrique Capriles and Lilian Tintori, to name a few – Tibisay reveals herself as the backwards Latin American nincompoop that she is. In failing to see the PR disaster that discarding such notoriously public signatures creates, she reveals herself in all her glorious mediocrity.

I’ve been reading a lot about modern East Asian history recently, and one of the things that jumps out of the enormous development gains those countries have experienced is the sheer inventiveness of their bureaucracies. It’s not just that they’re mostly honest, it’s that they solve problems. There are exceptions, of course, but the bureaucracies that have shaped modern East Asian history – the MITIs and the EDBs – share the same culture of not letting rules get in the way of development. Instead, they write rules at the service of development.

You would think such a goal-oriented mentality, common in developed societies, would have rubbed off on Tibisay. After all, there are limits to how much one can blame Iris Varela for being such a goon. Tibisay, on the other hand, should know better. Ha visto mundo

And yet there she was, brandishing her authority and her silly, made-up rules, explaining to us that el reglamento is what matters, when we know she’s simply making it up as she goes along. She sits there trying to make the case that the signatures of Capriles, Tintori, your aunt, your cousin, yourself, and 85% of the people in your Whatsapp groups simply don’t matter, that none of us matter, because all that matters are the rules. The stupid Tibisay and her equally stupid rules are Maduro’s main line of defense at the moment.

This is so common in our country.

Think about it next time you have to deal with a secretary on a power trip, or a salesman who simply refuses to help you return an item you purchased, or a lazy public servant drinking coffee while throngs of people wait in line to be served.  Think about it next time you put procedure in front of people in your own job. When you see them, when you see yourself, think of Tibisay.

In the 1990s, some of us went to graduate school in the US not just to learn but to change. We were given a golden opportunity – in my case, and perhaps in Tibisay’s as well, by Leopoldo López’s father, who was the head of Fundayacucho at the time. Some of us used the experience to mature as people and develop a different outlook on life. Some of us like to feel we loosened the grip our culture had placed on our personalities.

But Tibisay? She only went back as the incarnation of our worse aspects.

As a great poet once said of people living in New York, “everybody here was someone else before.” But enlightenment and change – that is not for Tibisay. Ella pasó por Nueva York, pero Nueva York no pasó por ella.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

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  1. Sure, Tibisay may be “gloriously mediocre”, “stupid”, and a dumb bureaucrat.

    But above all she’s another thief, enchufada, and that’s what this entire post fails to mention.

    Any dumb, uneducated CNE employee knows what the true “rules” are, and can read the Constitution. Including Tibisay, who has some education.

    The REASON she misbehaves, and doesn’t follow the Laws, the reason the entire CNE is a mess, is because they are all crooks, bribed by the regime. That’s the reason. Not just ineptitude or mediocrity or dumbness. The reason the CNE, the TSJ, the Military are not Separate Powers, independent from political views, independent from the Executive Branch, is $$$$$$$$$$$.

    So the real reason Tibisay Lucena is such a twisted witch, is not her ” glorious mediocrity”. No. It’s her lack of moral values and her enormous ambition. It’s because she likes the good life and is getting richer every year. That’s why.

  2. If Tibisay were merely a bureaucrat following the rules, the Arendtian “banality of evil” might apply to her. But she’s way worse than that. As you say, she actively makes up rules, or rather, pretexts, to deny Venezuelans their right to choose their own government.

    She’s fundamentally not a bureaucrat, she’s a golpista.

    ARTICLE 139, Constitution of Venezuela:

    The exercise of Public Power gives rise to individual liability for abuse or misapplication of power, or for violation of this Constitution or the law.

  3. Juan Cristóbal, Leooldo’s father did NOT give you or her a golden opportunity, that was given to you by your country! It wasn’t his money to give away he was just a public servant hopefully doing the best he could.

    • Instituciones por encima de individualidades. Es difícil digerir estas cosas simples de la vida pero que son fundamentales para la creación de una República. Gracias por traer el punto.

  4. There are exceptions, of course, but the bureaucracies that have shaped modern East Asian history – the MITIs and the EDBs – share the same culture of not letting rules get in the way of development. Instead, they write rules at the service of development.You would think such a goal-oriented mentality, common in developed societies, would have rubbed off on Tibisay.

    But Tibisay was a student at the New School, where Marxian dialectic trumps development any old day. Ironically, the New School had a long time faculty member who had been friends w Betancourt, courtesy of having taught Betancourt’s daughter when all were in Puerto Rico.

      • Critical Theory and the Frankfurt School were and are big components at the New School. Perhaps not straight Marxian, but definitely Neo-Marxian.

        • I associate it with Robert Heilbroner. I guess in my mind, he was what Americans today would regard as a liberal.

          • Heilbroner was the Norman Thomas Professor of Economics @ The New School. If you want to call Norman Thomas a Liberal….
            Heilbroner was a Socialist who by the 1990s had admitted that Socialism had failed. So, six of one , half a dozen of the other. I knew a New School faculty member who was a big Marcuse fan- Frankfort School, you recall- though he was also not in favor of the New Left taking over the place. Keep the faculty left running things, was his point of view. No reason for the young pups of the left to take over, as the adults were doing such a great job.

          • Recent publications of a New School graduate. Pratt Institute_Ritchie Savage

            Ritchie Savage is a recent Ph.D. from the Department of Sociology at The New School for Social Research. A comparative-historicalist in training, he investigates populism and political discourse with interests in social and political theory, language, culture, movements, psychoanalysis, and Russian Formalism.

            His dissertation, “A Comparative Analysis of Populist Discourse in Venezuela and the United States,” examines the symbolic structure of Venezuelan and U.S. political discourse present in the cases of Acción Democrática, McCarthyism, Chavismo, and the Tea Party in order to posit a framework for understanding the recent proliferation and successes of new institutionalized forms of populism around the world.

            Among his recent publications are “A Comparison of ‘New Institutionalized’ Populism in Venezuela and the USA,” Constellations 21(4) 2014, “From McCarthyism to the Tea Party: Interpreting Anti-Leftist Forms of US Populism in Comparative Perspective,” New Political Science 34(4) 2012,

            I suspect that Ciccarello-Maher, the Drexel Institute faculty member and PSF who wrote “We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution,” would consider Ritchie Savage a kindred soul

          • His dissertation, “A Comparative Analysis of Populist Discourse in Venezuela and the United States,” examines the symbolic structure of Venezuelan and U.S. political discourse present in the cases of Acción Democrática, McCarthyism, Chavismo, and the Tea Party in order to posit a framework for understanding the recent proliferation and successes of new institutionalized forms of populism around the world.

            In other words, manufactured bullshit over the reproduction of political discourse by third parties.

            D -: for original thinking — at any other school, except for the New School for Social Research, long a melting pot for the socially alienated.

  5. Yes, you’d have thought something positive would have rubbed off. But then I think of a Chavez now living in New York, with her hair stylist on the foreign service payroll apparently, and I think, New York, great city that it is, can change a person’s life, but it can also accommodate small minded people with the most grandiose, or pathetic, delusions.

    • Considering that The New School has long been a center of Critical Theory and the Frankfurt School- which if not straight Marxist are at least Neo-Marxist in orientation- I doubt that Tibisay was exposed to much at the New School that questioned her leftist beliefs.

  6. Más que pensar en Tibisay como una burócrata mal enfocada, yo más bien la veo como alguien que está haciendo el trabajo para el que fue puesta allí. Lo que sucede es que no estamos de acuerdo con su actuación, que bajo cualquier norma civilizada, es diabólica.

    Entender que el régimen esta haciendo su homework para mantenerse en el poder a toda costa, así sea a sangre y fuego, y que de paso les esta saliendo bien, es no entender la magnitud del problema y del reto.

    Si creen que Venezuela no puede ir más lejos de donde esta, busquen reflejo en Siria y el proxy war en que está convertido ese país.

  7. When we look at Tibisay, or Delma, or any of the many others spewing the ludicrous piss water that would never wash in a true democratic environment, rational people will always seek reasons or causes for such lies and doubletalk. How, we wonder, could an educated person in 2016 declare to the world that over a half million ballots were invalid because the signees somehow “broke the rules.” She is stupid, we say, or on the take. But I think the main driver in all of this whaco behavior issues from the narcissism and grandiosity of Chavez himself.

    It is one think to make ludicrous public statements – and anyone saying that Venezuela is not suffering a human crisis now is ludicrous. It is another thing to say crazy things and expect the world to believe you. But only a narcissist believes that whatever they say is so simply because they say it is. This is what so infuriates people when they see government officials going on and on about Venezuela being something it is not. They come off not as people discussing issues, but rather as authorities declaring the plain and simple truth.

    The disconnect between reality and what the Tibisy’s of the government actually say, has grown so vast that the whole sad drama feels surreal and toxic and plain evil, made all the worse because we have the strange feeling that the people who say such crap actually believe it. People merely out to game the system don’t usually believe the propaganda, they simply go with it for personal gain. Only a narcissist believes what they say because they say it, and acts offended when you don’t believe it to.

    Years ago we say much the same dynamic when another gran narcissist, Ferdinand Marcos, was ready to follow the entire country into the toilet before giving up power because he believed in his heart of hearts that he and only he had an exclusive to power. The same dynamic is usually there with all authoritarian figures, and money alone can never explain it. It is worth noting that in the US, insurance will rarely if ever pay for treatment once a person has been diagnosed with narcissism because in most cases the condition is untreatable. That’s why negotiating with a narcissistic government is basically impossible. Expecting them to “come around” is never going to happen. Of course not all in power are such wonky narcissists, and only appeals to this faction carry the hope of change. Otherwise the whole ship of fools has to go, or we’re simply in for more of the same.

  8. Juan, your posts often reek of classism, elitism and a preference for the foreign. I don’t write this to be offensive I think you really need to do some self-reflection unless you’re ok with coming across like that. For example, you framed this post as though she was unable to become less Latin-American even though she studied at a US university. I’m sure Venezuela has universities that are capable of educating great bureaucrats. Bureaucrats and politicians in the US are actually not particularly great (and most politicians don’t study public administration). Studying abroad is more a function of being able to afford it and most likely going to private schools. It’s a status symbol and offers greater opportunities but you don’t necessarily get a better education than in Venezuela. If it matters I went to college in the US. and in general this post does nothing to explain the situation. The analysis could have included how the New School, a progressive school with ties to leftists all over the world (different than Leopoldo Lopez’ Harvard).

    • How this New School would react about Tibisay Lucena being instrumental for a new wave of polítical discrimination in Venezuela by setting up in the very web page of the top electoral authority of a new Tascon List?

      Yes, this time it is not a guy who is wrongly publishing this data, it is our very own electoral and participation institution. The institution that should shields the citizens from abuses against them caused by their political views and preferences is the one giving them away.

      Good job Tibisay, you have to feel very proud of yourself.

      • Well pointed out Any Chavista bureaucrat can simply type in the cedula ID No. of his employees to see which signed for the RR, and threaten to fire them if they don’t withdraw their signatures; not to mention that the signees who do not withdraw their signatures go on the new Tascon list to not receive their CLAP bolsas de comida, misiones, etc. As Naky said, this could actually make the RR request fail in rural/Interior states where the population is heavily dependent on the Govt., and where the 1% made-up requirement of the electoral base needed to solicit the RR may not be met.

    • “I’m sure Venezuela has universities that are capable of educating great bureaucrats”

      LOL at this over the top shenanigan of a comment.

      Trabajo Social de la UCV debe ser super capaz.

  9. Juan, your posts often reek of classism, elitism and a preference for the foreign.

    Well, I am an American who grew up in both Latino and anglo culture. Wife is Venezuelan. Kids born in Maracay. Class? Rock climber/writer, mainly, so I’m close to the bottom. Elite? No even, but I consider feigned superiority from either the right or left wings utterly bogus. Since I’ve lived with one foot in both So Cal and Latin America (my house is in Valencia, Carabobo) my whole life I’m not sure which one is foreign, both or neither. But I do know that the New School would be ashamed of one of their alumni carrying on like Tibisy because what she is saying is simply not true. My main beef with Chavistas is that my two daughters have been made to suffer horribly. My oldest is a doctor in CCS and what she has to endure everyday is beyond words. My views are generally progressive but the Chavista brand of liberalism is IMO the Devil in human form, mocking everything most of us hold dear: honestly, integrity, honor, transparency, equality, fiscal intelligence, human rights, a sense of fair play, wherewithal, compassion, understanding, and sympathy. If that’s elitist, I’m not giving it up, no matter how poorly I make good on those ideals.

  10. So what’s the story? Does she a have a Ph.D. awarded by the New School? I’ve been unable to find her dissertation online. I’d love to take a look at it. Like JC, I am intrigued by the hearts and minds of far too many in “revolutionary” Venezuela that had a chance to make a positive difference but instead became soulless tools of corruption.

  11. I’d like to say Tibisay’s is the face off Chavista Evil – but there is something so intractability bovine about her appearance, it always makes me wonder if it is she herself who comes up with this shit, or if she is being fed her marching orders by the likes of GGH or some other. She lacks the insane true believer countenance of Delcy and appears to be reading her lines as if from a teleprompter. That so much evil could come from someone so bland is depressing.

  12. I read this gossip from two distinguished venezuelan academics on twitter:

    Back in the 1990s, Tibisay Lucena was researcher at IESA under the supervision of Prof. Ramón Piñango. She was sent to New York in order to get a PhD in Sociology (probably with FGMA scholarship), but for some reason she failed, so they awarded her with a MSc to finish the story.

    IESA promised her tenure with the condition of getting the PhD, hence she had to leave the institute. Finally she landed at UCV and the rest is history.

  13. […] Guara, con un doctorado hecho en Nueva York, violonchelista y sancionada ayer por el Departamento del Tesoro norteamericano. Tibisay Lucena tiene 58 años. En 2006, cuando dentro de la Asamblea Nacional se vivía la hegemonía partidista de los rojos, los diputados premiaron a Tibi con el cargo de rectora principal y luego recibió la presidencia del ente. En 2009 se ratificó en la silla más alta del Poder Electoral. El 28 de abril de 2013 se le venció el período, pero en 2014 se volvió a postular y pues ahora ella ejercerá funciones “legítimamente” hasta 2021. En mayo de este año, después de más de cuatro meses desaparecida, llegó para afianzar la nueva locura del emperador: La Constituyente. En 2006 anunció la victoria del Comandantecontra Manuel Rosales, en 2007 anunció que ganó el NO para la reforma de la Constitución propuesta por Chávez, en 2008 anunció que el país se había minado de Gobernadores rojitos, en 2010 invocó la aparición de un nuevo símbolo para los venezolanos: la baranda del CNE. En 2011 le detectaron cáncer y se operó en una clínica del este caraqueño y después tuvo que someterse a quimioterapia. En 2012 anunció la última victoria de Chávez y después en 2013 la de Maduro. Lucena fue profesora en el posgrado de Procesos Electorales de la UCV, es egresada de Escuela de Sociología de esa universidad. Perteneció en su juventud el Sistema de Orquestas y hoy —en un giro macabro de la historia— matan jóvenes músicos por exigir su derecho a votar en elecciones generales. […]


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